Archive for the 'Parent-to-Parent' Category

Finding the Holy Grail of parenting: Date night

date ideas written on popsicle sticks

Cropped image. Personal Creations, Flickr. CC license.

There are some couples who are just good at it, and some who need a boost. I’m talking about date nights and nights out with grown-ups. No. Kids.

I have a friend who is really good at it. He and his wife schedule date nights once a month in advance. They usually try a new restaurant without their four kids and then run a few errands. My husband and I are horrible at it. I love the idea, but the mythical unicorn of “date night” hardly visits our marriage. I’m not sure if that unicorn even knows where we live.

When the opportunity does come our way, I’m all in though. To get myself motivated to plan a night out, I did some brainstorming about fun things to do without your shortys in tow.

Check out entertainment calendars. Try the Freep or MLive. They list special events at museums, concerts/music festivals, cultural events and more.

Try something different. The last time we went on a date, we tried mini golf. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. We were horrible! But it was a blast and totally out of the norm for us. Also consider indoor rock climbing (before adult beverages, please), a comedy show, go to the drive-in theater or a play, or attend one of the after-hours events at the zoo, Cranbrook Institute of Science or the Michigan Science Center.

If the scheduling gods are smiling on you and you actually make plans with other adults, first take a photo. It’s a rare event. Second, come up with something to do quickly so you don’t just end up camped out at the house of whoever sent their kids off to grandma’s house.

Consider:

  • Feather bowling
  • Normal bowling
  • A sporting event
  • Wine tasting/whiskey tasting
  • Casino
  • Museums
  • Visit Belle Isle and rent a paddle boat, kayak or bike
  • Preservation Detroit has excellent walking tours
  • Try an escape room
  • Trampoline park

Are you ready to plan a night out? Me, too. Where are you going?

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

Our summer bucket list

boy and his little brother in a stroller

Hitting our local splash pad was one of our summer bucket list items.

Summer is my favorite season and for good reason: There’s warm weather and extra sunlight, which brings outdoor activities and longer hours in the day to do them. Plus, my child behaves so differently in the summer because he can run, climb, swim, jump and play to his heart’s desire.

My family loves a good summer and this year we decided to make a summer bucket list. To me, summer feels like a fleeting moment that I’m desperately trying to extend. The anticipation of summer seems to last forever whereas the actual moments of sunshine tend to fly by. Our summer to-do list highlights all the major activities we have been anxiously awaiting. It’s also a great launching point when my child complains of being bored; I can point to our list and ask which one of the activities he wants to do. Mondays aren’t so bad when you decide to cover the sidewalk in chalk or pull out the slip and slide!

To create our summer bucket list, we pulled out white paper and my son’s crayons then started brainstorming. No idea was too silly or small. See a movie outdoors? Sure. Eat something from our home garden? You bet. Have a camp out in the backyard? My son had so much fun! We tried to create a comprehensive list of all the things we wanted to do. The end game was not to simply “check off” items on our list, but instead just to put on paper the fun ideas we each had and then do things as a family.

Incorporating my 4-year-old taught me that his idea of a fun summer is different than mine. While I was focused on including big-ticket items such as family vacations, camping trips and get togethers, my child had amazingly simple ideas to include items like “have a staring contest” and “catch fireflies” on our list. What is better than catching fireflies on a summer night to a 4-year-old? The Babcock Summer Bucket List has been a huge success and I will definitely continue this tradition in the future!

boys with bucket list

My boys with the official bucket list.

Here are the items that got included our 2017 summer bucket list:

  • Go swimming at Nana and Papa’s pool
  • Play on the slip and slide
  • Take a trip up north to the cabin
  • Lay on a hammock
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Take a trip to the zoo
  • Get our faces painted
  • Go visit our local splash pad
  • Catch a frog
  • Camp in the backyard in the tent
  • Have a staring contest
  • Go horseback riding
  • Cover the sidewalk in chalk art
  • Take a family bike ride
  • Have a bonfire and s’mores
  • Catch fireflies
  • Climb a tree
  • See fireworks
  • Have a sleepover with the cousins
  • See an outdoor movie (at the drive-in or at the park)
  • Jump on a trampoline
  • Go for a hike
  • Visit Michigan Adventure waterpark
  • Go fishing
  • Get covered in temporary tattoos
  • Have a hot dog
  • Eat something from our home garden
  • Go fruit picking
  • Visit Belle Isle Aquarium

Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two boys.

Hey, we’re in this together! A reminder for new parents

woman with arms around man

Unaltered image. Ashley Webb, Flickr. CC license.

Your baby is finally here and your dream of being parents finally came true. Sure, this is something the two of you excitedly dreamed and talked about for so long, but now that baby arrived, you may find yourselves feeling unhappy and disillusioned. Maybe you and your partner are feeling distant from each other when you thought a baby would bring you closer. What’s going on?

Most importantly, know that you aren’t alone. Research conducted by Dr. John Gottman, a renowned couple’s therapist and researcher, found that two-thirds of couples report increased conflict and decreased relationship satisfaction after the birth of their first baby. It can be one of the most stressful times for a couple’s relationship.

It’s been said that having a first baby is like throwing a hand grenade into a marriage. Those sweet little babies explode into our hearts and lives; they are the center of our world and the subject of almost all conversations. As a result, becoming new parents is one of the happiest times of our lives, while simultaneously being one of the hardest.

Those first weeks often leave parents feeling scared, clueless and exhausted. Many parents are overwhelmed with the endless work caring for an infant brings. They feel angry and betrayed when their partner doesn’t help out more or seem to care about them or their needs anymore. Parents often take their disappointment and frustration out on each other. Even a strong relationship can be severely strained during this transition time.

So what can couples do to lessen the conflict between them and improve their relationship as they adjust to becoming parents? Here some suggestions to help you keep your relationship positive and strong.

Communication is key

  • Talk to each other. Tell your partner how you’re feeling and what changes would help you feel better. Be sure to avoid criticisms and attacking language, such as using “always” and “never,” which only escalate conflicts. For example, stay away from statements like, “You never help out around here,” or “You’re always late coming home.” When partners hear things like this, they only think about defending themselves instead of truly listening to what you’re saying.
  • Listen. Really, truly listen to your partner’s concerns. Try not to become defensive with each other and instead, look at things from a problem-solving perspective.
  • Be understanding. Make the time and effort to find out what’s going on in your partner’s world from his/her perspective. For example, new moms are biologically hardwired to focus on caring for their newborns and don’t stop to think about how that feels to her partner. While moms don’t intent to exclude or ignore, it is often how dads feel. As a consequence, dads can act out their anger and frustration at feeling left out.

Define a new normal for awhile

  • Welcome help and support. It is perfectly appropriate to ask for and accept help from others. Families used to live in the same area generation after generation, and these relatives helped while first-time parents adjusted to their new roles. That’s often not true today. Instead, accept help from friends, family, co-workers, your religious organization, or community programs that offer it. Ask for help if needed. There is no gold star given for doing it alone.
  • Lower your expectations. It’s OK to let household chores slide or not cook homemade meals. As new parents, your focus should be on caring for baby and taking care of yourselves, which includes getting adequate sleep and bonding as a family. Some other things may need to lapse temporarily and that’s fine. As children grow and parents adjust, these things will once again be addressed.

Returning to work

  • Establish a new routine. Once one or both parents return to work, give yourselves time to work out a new routine. Review it every few weeks and adjust it as needed so that it works for both of you. Understand that finding what works for you both make take some trial and error and it will be unique to your situation.
  • Divide and conquer. Work out a division of labor that seems equitable to both of you. Caring for children, especially infants, is very work intensive. Arguments about “who does what” are common causes of relationship problems for new parents. Find solutions that work for you both then follow through on your part of it. Agree to tweak it as you find what works and what doesn’t.

Appreciate each other

  • Check-in daily. Make time to touch base with your partner daily, even if it’s only 5 minutes. Listen to his/her concerns and be supportive, but don’t try to solve the problems. Sometimes we all need to just vent and know that our partner is there for us. The biggest connections between partners can come from the small moments of feeling heard and valued.
  • Small gestures matter. Leave a note or send a text letting your partner know you’re thinking of them. Thank them for doing something helpful especially when you didn’t even have to ask. Let them know what a great mom or dad they are already. Even a small thing will show that you still love and appreciate your partner.
  • Make time for yourself. Give each other some “me” time on a regular basis, in a way that feels fair to both of you. We all need some time to ourselves to recharge and to stay connected to the person we were before becoming a parent. Revisit your arrangement and adjust it as needed.
  • Time together is important, too. Schedule some time together on a regular basis to have some fun. Too often couples become consumed by the demands of working and parenthood and they neglect each other. Make having fun together a priority!
  • Schedule time for intimacy. No, it doesn’t sound romantic, but with the busy life of new parents, it’s often schedule time for this or it never happens. It’s important to remember that you are both not just parents; you are the partners who fell in love enough to create a family together. Take the time to continue letting your partner know how special he/she is to you and how much you still value them as a person and as a partner.

And remember: Keep your sense of humor! Sometimes the way we look at things and the attitude we take makes all the difference between a big fight and a good laugh!

– Karen Duffy, LPC, NCC is an IFS coordinator with the Beaumont Parenting Program

Breaking up the day

two kids in strawberry patch

Strawberry picking was a great way to break up our routine.

Now that I’m home with the kids, I’ve found that I hear, “Mom, mom, mama, mommy, hey mom!” more often than my sanity budgets for. I love my kids with all my heart, but they are always there. I mean, right there! Often so close to me that I accidentally step on them when I turn around after hearing my name called for the umpteenth time.

One of my big breakthroughs as a stay-at-home mom was realizing that everyone—even 5-year-olds—needs alone time. I try to make sure everyone gets alone time during the day, even me. As a family we love each other unconditionally, but let’s face it, we get on each other’s nerves. Being able to go in a room and close the door when you need to has helped one of my kids tremendously, so I try to work it in before anyone reaches the breaking point.

I’m gonna get “fan mail” for this next one, but I don’t monitor screen time. Never have. I used to think I did and even felt bad that I didn’t, but one day I was talking to a mother who had adult twins. She was telling me how much she loved Barney when her kids were little because it gave her a break. I thought about that for a minute and thought, “We’re all in the trenches, especially when they’re little. Why kill myself over surviving?”

Now, I’m not advocating using the TV or other device as an alternate parent, but some days, it’s a lifesaver. I also use a TV show or two to take a mid-day break and chill for a little while. Naps are sometimes necessary, but most days we can just relax for a bit and get back out there.

All in all, I like to have a bunch of activities as options for the day and try a few things. We might head to the library in the morning and set up the sprinkler in the afternoon. Some days, we go to mall play places or parks, others we visit with friends. Bike rides, looking at garage sales (seriously, my kids love how much crap they can get for $1), and drawing chalk cities on the driveway are all great ways to engage with kids. I also like to have them help me make lunch and pick what we have for dinner (not that they’ll eat it). I even have a Pinterest board called “Keep them out of jail” that’s full of kid-friendly, cheap activities to keep them occupied, which has a great side effect of letting me stretch my creative muscles.

All in all, we’re surviving. We’re staying busy. And we’re trying to enjoy the ride.

– Rebecca Calappi is the adoptive parent to boy/girl twins and a freelance writer. She is a Capricorn, if you want to send her birthday greetings.

Let’s go hiking!

family hiking

Spring is here and with summer right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to do an article about hiking. Just like camping, hiking is a great way for you to spend quality time with your family without spending a fortune. But how do you get started? Here are some tips that can help.

Location

First, decide how big of an adventure you want to tackle. Start small and work your way into longer treks.

  • The easiest trails can be found at nature centers or Metroparks. These are often just a few miles on groomed trails so they can be completed in a few hours.
  • You can then steadily increase the distance and/or altitude on future hikes. As you take on more challenging trails, you may eventually decide that you want to spend the night on the trail.

Boots

Absolutely, the most important equipment is footwear! If you don’t have boots that are comfortable or fit properly, you are going to have problems.

  • Generally you’ll want a boot that provides plenty of arch and ankle support (although some hikers like to wear lightweight shoes with very little support).
  • Spend as much as you can afford on the boots. It is true that you get what you pay for.
  • Consider getting your boots from an outdoor recreation store like REI. Stores like this often allow you to exchange the boots for a different style if you find them uncomfortable. Their staff is also going to be more knowledgeable about hiking than at a regular shoe store.
  • Wear your boots around the house or during the day to help break them in before going on a hike.

Equipment

Backpacking is all about saving weight. When you have everything in your backpack, it shouldn’t weigh more than one-third of your body weight. If it does, either you have too much stuff or you need to buy lighter equipment. Not surprisingly, lighter equipment is usually higher in price.

  • A backpack
    • Start with basic equipment. A regular school-type backpack is fine for going a few miles at a Metropark. You can pack a lunch, snacks, and a small first aid kit with plenty of room left for a raincoat, extra water, etc.
    • When you’re ready to start spending the night on the trail, it’s time to upgrade your equipment.
      • The duration of your hike will help determine the size of the backpack that you need. If you plan to continue expanding your hiking abilities, go with a bigger pack so you can grow into it.
      • For overnight hikes, you can probably get by with a 40 to 50 liter backpack. For a weeklong hike, you’ll want 80 to 90 liters.
    • Most backpacks now have an internal frame, meaning that the structure is built into the backpack instead of the frame being on the outside. When you’re at the store, try on several different brands and styles to see which one fits your build the best. Again, an outdoor recreation store is great for this because they have a wide selection and knowledgeable staff.
  • A sleeping bag.
    • There are generally two types of sleeping bags: down and synthetic. Down is warmer but can take longer to dry if it gets wet (although there are new styles available with water-resistant down). Synthetic bags will dry faster and are usually cheaper. Be sure to get a waterproof compression sack to store it in.
    • Note: You don’t want to use the same one that you use for tent camping because it won’t compress small enough to fit in your backpack.
  • A tent.
    • There are several styles of backpacking tents available in a wide range of prices. If you’re hiking with other people, you can get a two person tent and each of you can carry half of the tent.
    • Generally speaking, most tents are similar in design; you’ll have poles, a nylon shell, and a rainfly.
    • When you buy a higher price tent, you’re paying for lighter weight.
  • Some cooking gear.
    • Start with a backpacking stove. You can get ones with pre-filled canisters of fuel, ones with a fuel bottle that you can refill, ones that use fuel tablets, or even ones that use wood. Talk with a staff member at the store to determine which one is best for your needs.
    • For pots and pans, look for ones that nest inside each other to save space.
    • Again, higher price means lighter weight.
  • You don’t need to spend much money on plates, cups and utensils. Just get a plastic bowl, a cup, and a spork (a fork, spoon and knife all in one). You can even go simpler and use a Frisbee for your bowl!s
  • That’s it for the basic equipment that you need. You can consider getting things like collapsible stools, hiking poles, pillows, GPS, coffee pots, and more. Just remember to watch the weight.

Food

  • To save weight, go with freeze-dried food. It stores easily and is fairly easy to cook on the trail.
  • Bring high-energy snacks to eat while hiking. You will go through more of these than you would expect, so have plenty.
  • Water can be your biggest obstacle when hiking. If you’re doing a strenuous hike, you’ll want to have at least one quart of water for every hour that you’re hiking. Drinking water also helps combat altitude sickness. You’ll also need water for cooking and cleaning. Consider dedicating specific bottles for each of the categories. You’ll likely need to fill your bottles during the trip so plan ahead. Either know where you can find clean, sanitized water or bring a method to sanitize water from streams and lakes.

Clothing

  • Less is more with clothing. Believe me, you can go a whole week on two sets of clothes! Bring some biodegradable soap and you can wash your clothes in a stream. Hang them on the outside of your pack to dry as you hike.
  • Spend some extra money and get a lightweight, thermal, long-sleeve shirt. You can wear this in the morning so you don’t have to bring a coat.
  • Have a separate set of sleeping clothes. Shorts and a T-shirt work great.
  • Bring a couple extra pairs of socks so that you always have a dry pair to wear.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • A lack of sanitation is the enemy when hiking. Don’t drink untreated water from lakes and streams. Make sure you are properly cleaning and sanitizing your cooking gear. Determine how you are going to deal with your waste and use hand sanitizer as necessary.
  • Be sure to familiarize yourself with the trails before setting out. Even if you are hiking though a Metropark, print off a copy of the map so you know where you are. For longer hikes, purchase topographical maps of the area. Even though you can use a compass on your phone, have a regular compass as a backup.
  • Make sure to use sunscreen. Even in the woods, the sun can filter through and have an effect.
  • Always let someone know that you’re going on a hike (even if you’re with a group). Share your planned route and when you expect to return. This will assist rescuers should you need help on the trail. Remember, your cell phone may not work on the trail, so you may not be able to call for help.
  • Finally, follow the Leave No Trace principles. They can be found at lnt.org. It’s important that we all follow these principles so that everyone can enjoy the trails for generations to come.

Now, get out on the trail and see what the world has to offer!

– Dave Enerson started camping and hiking with his dad as a young child. He is a former Scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout Troop and spent a week hiking at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico last summer.

Finding my tribe

group of women friends

I couldn’t be as effective at parenting as I am without my mom tribe. In fact, I have a few. Each one serves a different purpose for me. One is a person, I belong to a twins group and an online group. I tried getting into another one, but it just wasn’t for me.

My person has been there, done all of it with three kids. She knows when I need to vent, when to worry with me and when to tell me to get over it. I need that. We all do.

In the earliest days of my motherhood, I made sure to find out if Beaumont’s Parenting Program accepted adoptive families. The director was very understanding and got us into a multiples group in the next cycle. It was wonderful. Now, five years later, we still meet with three of the families regularly. I love them. I loved being in a group of people who had two babies at the same time. We all had dark circles under our eyes. We all went through it together. One day, I hope to be invited to those kids’ graduations and even weddings.

My online tribe is more of a secret, like Fight Club. We just lay it all out there. It’s a safe place to rant, swear, and be disenchanted with children and partners. It’s also a great resource for swapping items, a great knowledge storehouse for childhood illnesses, and it’s way cheaper than therapy. They are my people.

The fourth tribe is an amazing group of women working on their online business. I liked them a lot, but in the end, we weren’t a good fit. And that’s OK. I still admire their product from afar. I found the distance in that relationship that I needed and struck a balance.

We all have our “go to” group or friend to help us get through the craziness of parenting. At least, I hope we do. We all need someone to reaffirm that no, you are not losing your mind. Your child is just nuts right now, but don’t worry. It will pass. It always does.

It really does take a village to raise a child. But, more importantly, I think it takes a large suburb to raise an effective parent.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

Tips for Mother’s Day from a Mom

MOM decorative letters

What does Mother’s day mean?

It is one day of out 365 to highlight the main woman (or women) in your life who works endlessly, tirelessly, and often unnoticed, in your family to keep things running smoothly.

This day is a celebration honoring the mother in your family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. How should this day be celebrated? How do you take one day out of the year to show your appreciation for all this love and hard work? Here’s my take on some tips for Mother’s Day:

  • Make the entire day about what the women in your life want to do. No joke here when I say that last year I spent some of my day in Home Depot picking out paint colors for our house. Take my advice when I say do not do this! Don’t treat Mother’s Day as any ordinary Sunday where you can cram in some house chores. Instead, have the men take the kid(s) out of the house to lunch or to the park so mom can enjoy some quiet time to take a shower without children barging in, read a book she’s been behind on, or do anything that she wants to do!
  • If you have young children who can’t make a cute project or pick out a present for their mother, dads you are responsible for getting something for your other half. Yep. Although she may not be your mother, your significant other is the mother to your children. Get her a meaningful gift from your little one to show her how much she means to the both of you. Hands down, I would prefer a handmade gift from my husband and little ones over a store-bought necklace or candy. Pinterest is full of ideas, but suggestions can be these adorable handprint canvas sign, this salt dough footprint craft, or this floral perfume spray that little hands can easily pick out, cut and stuff into spray bottles!
  • Although flowers are nice, even better than that is a nap and a day off duty from being a mom. Don’t get me wrong, I love both my children. I have two young boys (4 years and 4 months) and give them everything I have every single day. But for Mother’s Day, I would really like to have a day off from being Mom. I would like for my husband to be the one to get the cup of water, peel the banana, put a Band-Aid on my son’s knee, fix the broken toy, and help rock by baby to sleep. Being a sleep-deprived mother means that all my daydreams right now are currently of scooting away from my responsibilities and catching a 15 minute power nap. If you really want to spoil the woman in your life, give her money and time to go to Target by herself or a trip to the spa to get some pampering!

These tips are just from my point of view, but from my talks with family and friends, I know that I’m not alone. The most important point I’m trying to make is that moms want this day to be meaningful. Take the time to tell your mother, your wife, your sister, your mother-in-law, stepmother, friends and others how much they mean to you and your family. One day out of the year to show gratitude and appreciation for all the work moms do for their loved one the rest of the 364 days of the year.

P.S. Moms, feel free to give a “subtle hint” by sharing this post.

– Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two.


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